NASCAR Betting Guide: Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Desperation is a hell of a drug. And it's going to be flowing Saturday night in Bristol.
The NASCAR Cup Series is wrapping up the first round of the playoffs. After the race, the championship field will be trimmed by four drivers, and those drivers' hopes of hoisting the trophy in Phoenix will evaporate.
That's going to amp things up a notch. What's even more fun is that two of the drivers who may be most desperate actually have good histories at the track.
Ryan Blaney (+1700 at FanDuel Sportsbook) and Matt DiBenedetto (+4700) are both more than 20 points behind the cutline but have recent top-five finishes in Bristol. If they want to advance, they're probably going to need a win. And Blaney has already said he won't hesitate to go old-school Bristol to get that job done.
Ryan Blaney’s mentality going into Bristol? “It’s our season. … I caution those in front of me — I’m not going to be behind them very long if we’re faster than them.” pic.twitter.com/FOBjdsBO63
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) September 17, 2020
Buying into narratives can often get you into trouble with betting. However, in this case, the narrative may actually change the way drivers run the race, and that does matter.
Which drivers should we look to bet for Saturday night at FanDuel Sportsbook once we account for the desperation factor? Let's check it out.
Joey Logano (+1000)
There's no big motivation factor on Joey Logano's side this week; he's just good.
Logano currently leads all drivers in my model straight up, edging out his teammate, Brad Keselowski (+650). There are a couple reasons it views Logano so favorably.
First, this is a good track for him. He's a two-time Bristol winner who has had a top-eight average running position in four of the past five races. He led 146 laps in last year's spring race, and he almost won this year's spring race. That shot went up in dust when Chase Elliott (+700) banged into Logano, taking both out of contention and gifting the win to Keselowski.
Second, Logano has been superb in the 750-horsepower package this season, and that's the package they'll run Saturday. Logano's four top-five finishes in seven races are tied for second behind Martin Truex Jr. (+1900), and he has led more laps than everybody except Keselowski and Denny Hamlin (+480). His lone non-top-10 was in Bristol, thanks to the Elliott incident.
Straight up, it'd be wise to rank Keselowski higher. But we get a discount on Logano at +1000, and he'll start on the front row alongside Keselowski. It's a discount we should be willing to accept with how good Logano has run in similar situations.
Ryan Blaney (+1700)
A pissed-off Blaney at a track where he always runs up front? Yes, please.
The finishes won't show it, but Blaney is a consistent contender in Bristol. He has led at least 60 laps in four of the past five races, and he had a top-three average running position twice. That's race-winning upside. It's just hard to win a race from the wrecker, a place with which Blaney is fully familiar, having wrecked while battling for the lead twice in that span.
Blaney's volatile. That's not ideal if you're laying down a top-10 bet or a head-to-head. But for outrights, volatility is awesome if you think the driver can hit the high end of his range of outcomes. With Blaney, we know that's the case. It's less of a lock with DiBenedetto, which is why we'll favor Blaney between the two who will be in scramble mode.
There won't be any conservative points-racing here; Blaney's going to go for it. He has to. That, plus his abilities at this track, allows us to buy into the narrative and bet him at +1700.
Clint Bowyer (+2100)
Clint Bowyer's one of the drivers who could be points-racing on Saturday. He's currently right on the bubble as the last driver advancing. But if someone like Blaney or DiBenedetto were to win, Bowyer'd be in decent trouble. Thankfully, he has proven he can come through on this track and in this package.
Bristol fits Bowyer's style well, and he has cashed in with favorable results. In seven races here with Stewart-Haas Racing, Bowyer has two runner-up finishes, one of which came this spring. He also led 120 laps in the 2018 fall race, so he's capable of running up front.
Bristol wasn't the lone good run for Bowyer in this package in 2020. He also had a fifth-place finish in Phoenix, and he followed that up with a sixth in the first Dover race. His average running position in that Dover race was fifth.
Once you add it all up, Bowyer actually sits third in my model for Saturday night. I would not personally rank him there, and I think it's overestimating his upside. Still, there's reason to believe that his upside is higher here than anywhere else, and you're not betting him as a favorite, either. Points may not wind up being a concern on Saturday because Bowyer's someone who could hit a walkoff and advance by snagging the checkers.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+13000)
There's no narrative in Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s corner, and he truly has no incentive to win outside of getting a check and a trophy. He's not in the playoffs, which means he'll start 21st. But he's just hard to pass up at these odds.
The two times to buy in on Stenhouse are at superspeedways and at Bristol. Of his 18 career top-five finishes, four have come here, the most recent being in the 2018 spring race. He has also wrecked plenty -- he has three straight finishes outside the top 30 -- but again, volatility isn't bad if you can hit the high notes.
Stenhouse had an impressive run in the first Dover race, posting a 12th-place average running position and finishing 10th. Even with the volatility, you can justify betting Stenhouse to finish in the top 10 (+210) because he has a good chance to be there if he's running at the finish. But if you just want to have a fun ticket for Saturday night, Stenhouse can be your guy.